In a bid to advance vibrant online learning environments that can be resilient in the face of forced disruptions currently going on in the Nigerian educational system during the COVID-19 global pandemic and after, Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Open and Distance Learning Centre hosted a two-day global webinar titled, “Beyond COVID-19: Adapting to the New Normal”.
In his opening remarks, the moderator of the webinar, Dr. Ganiyu Adigun said, it was a conversation happening at the right time when over 1.2 billion students are out of the classroom globally, particularly in developing countries such as Nigeria. As schools and other human activities are connecting to the digital world to engage and deliver, researchers, stakeholders, administrators, and policymakers gathered on the 15th and 16th of July 2020, to discuss the way forward. The speakers were from diverse professional backgrounds ranging from Information and Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D), Academia, Digital Innovation, Strategic Management, Industry 4.0, and Cybersecurity.
The first day themed “Evaluating E-readiness for E-learning in Nigerian Context” was kicked off by the Vice-Chancellor, LAUTECH, Prof Michael Ologunde. During the session it was acknowledged that Nigeria has many factors hindering quick adoption of eLearning including inadequate learning and training facilities, non optimum capacity development of teacher/lecturers, and other factors.
One of the invited speakers at the event, Prof. Abiodun Musa Aibinu, the Director of Open, Distance and eLearning Center and Head, Department of Mechatronics Engineering, Federal University of Technology Minna, said that “Reshaping education in Nigeria will involve a concerted effort between the students, staff, academic institutions, regulatory bodies and government”. The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed vulnerabilities in our educational system which could be corrected with the use of ICT tools that will usher in e-learning with augmented, virtual reality and 3D animation that could complement practical based courses.
In his presentation on ‘Stakeholder Analysis: Collaborative Engagement Towards Successful Transformation in Education’, Prof. Adedapo Ojo of LAUTECH told the audience that digital transformation in education will work when there is a joint effort between relevant stakeholders like content creators, students, policymakers, administrators, and regulators. He added that there is a need for relevant policies that will engineer the process. Formulation and adoption of such policy is not a one and for all thing, but a closed-loop system, which includes, the drafting, capacity development, public orientation, implementation, monitoring, and feedback processes. Achieving this would require concerted efforts of all stakeholders with continuous change, compliance, and control.
To unveil the face of instructors and teachers in the new normal and itemize the required set of skills in order to successfully adapt and consequently impact knowledge was Prof. Francisca Oladipo’s submission. In her presentation titled, ‘The Digital Teacher: Examining the Emerging Profile of Teachers in the Post COVID-19 Era’, she reminded the participants that most learning activities will now depend on the use of digital technologies and the possession of the requisite skills and the emotional disposition to go with the advent of a new era.“The post-COVID-19, we should be willing to use digital learning technologies to manage, plan, deliver and track the learning process; learn new teaching strategies based on prevailing circumstances and learn a complex mix of skills which need to be constantly refined”, she said.
The Director of the Center, and current Deputy Vice-Chancellor Academic Affairs at Kampala International University, Prof. TayoArulogun, in his presentation on ‘The State of ODL in Nigeria’, pointed out that ICT is the key tool to achieve the special organizational and administrative arrangements required by distance learning to meet the needs of every learner. ICT Development Index (IDI) rank of the country needs to be consciously improved by investing purposefully on functional and sustainable ICT infrastructures. Prof. Arulogun furthermore, affirmed that Open and Distance Learning (ODL) has enormous potentials to create an inclusive educational space that could solve the twin problems of access to education and the high cost of delivering education for a large population with Nigeria as a case study. There is the need to revisit and implement the Nigerian National Policy of Education especially the policy on distance learning that emphasizes the “provision of access to quality education and equity in educational opportunities for those who otherwise would have been denied”. He advocated for open access collaboration among tertiary institutions in Nigeria in the area of capacity development and courseware development for ODL because interactive learning materials and ICT infrastructures are very important and could be expensive.
Concluding the sessions on the first day, all the speakers agreed that Nigeria was on the right path, putting together ICT infrastructures and capacity development of the faculty members and administrators in readiness to educate the learners using eLearning as a veritable tool during and post Covid-19 eras. The country has continued to evolve new ways to solve her infrastructural deficit especially in the educational sector and LAUTECH is leading in this initiative by leveraging on the experiences of the ODL implementation.
The second day themed, “Skill Re-assessment: Acquiring Digital Skills for the New Normal” commenced with an insightful presentation from Dr. Olalekan Samuel Ogunleye, a LAUTECH Alumni and an academic based in South Africa. He spoke on ‘Adapting Digital Technologies for Transformation’, and reflected on how the use of emerging Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies could advance learning and skills development.
In his presentation on ‘The Independent Student in Digital Era’, Dr. Adebowale Owoseni, a Senior Lecturer in Information Systems and ICT4D researcher at DeMontfort University, UK, defined Independent student as a person who has a choice to learn, unlearn, relearn, or not to learn at all. He emphasized that the main responsibility for learning in the digital era falls on the student. “Fortunately, students in developing countries could leverage online digital platforms to access global learning networks, build a learning support system and create a sellable personal brand with global reach” said Dr. Owoseni. Dr. Seun Kolade, another senior lecturer in Strategic Management at DeMontfort University, UK, spoke extensively on ‘Re-evaluating employability skills, what it takes to be employed in the digital age’, he encouraged the participants to seek new skills in Data Analysis, Artificial intelligence, Robotics, User Experience, Digital Transformation, Big Data and other new skills needed to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
Dr. Bidemi Ologunde gave a presentation on ‘The Borderless Job Market: Understanding How Digital Platform Works’. He provided an overview of global COVID-19 trends among major companies and organizations all over the world – in terms of modifications to their global workforce practices and hiring processes. He then touched on the pros and cons of the global move towards a borderless job environment – from the rise of ‘micro-credentials’ to the apparent loss of human connections, to an increase in global competitiveness for almost every available job role. In conclusion, he highlighted the skills needed to succeed in the ‘new normal’ digital environment such as adaptability, flexibility, computer & data literacy, leadership skills, emotional intelligence among others.
Dr. Akanimo Odon, an international strategy expert who advises several UK universities also emphasized the need for students and professionals to be global citizens transcending borders and geography and imbibing creativity, flexibility, dedication, and proactiveness. As captured in his award-winning career book, The Graduate Code, he encouraged students to think of time as a resource, think outside the box and increase their knowledge through short online courses which are mostly free in this era.
The closing remark was given by the Secretary to the LODLC Governing Board and Deputy Registrar, Mrs. V. M. Olojede. She appreciated all the participants, the presenters, and the LODLC Webinar Series organizing committee for their valuable contributions.
The webinar was well attended by more than 250 participants from Nigeria, South Africa, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Company Name: Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH)
Contact Person: Prof. Tayo Arulogun